Black Central District residents and business owners concerned about the gentrification of their neighborhood gathered on Monday to learn what the organization Africatown is doing to preserve and develop the historically black community.
Africatown CEO K. Wyking Garrett told the group he didn’t see himself in Seattle’s draft 2035 comprehensive plan, so the community needs to take action to make sure black people have a future in the city.
“We need to rewrite the script,” Garrett said.
Part of rewriting that script is for the community to take ownership of different construction and development projects in the Central District.
Garrett brought different project leaders to Washington Hall to share the statuses of the Liberty Bank Building, the old Fire Station 6, the Y K Building and Midtown Center.
About 60 people filled seats at the hall. Many left after Walsh Construction and Capitol Hill Housing representatives provided an update for the Liberty Bank Building.
CHS reported last week on the Liberty Bank Building’s community “memorandum of understanding” that paves the way for possible Black ownership of the affordable housing project.
Walsh Construction is the general contractor for the project and is seeking black subcontractors for everything from putting up drywall to installing carpet, except for plumbing work — a black-owned company has already been hired for that.
“One of the biggest things that I’ve been pushing for, that we’re all pushing for, is to make sure when there’re people on the job site, they look like our community, they look like us,” said Jaebadiah Gardner, Capitol Hill Housing’s assistant project manager for the Liberty Bank Building.
Walsh representatives want to work closely with subcontractors to help with paperwork, insurance and determining the scope of work each subcontractor could successfully complete.
Contractors need to bid for work by February and can find more information at libertybankbuilding.org. Individual hirees are also needed for the project. Groundbreaking is planned for June and construction is expected to last about 15 months.
Four businesses are planned to split the 3,300 square-foot ground-level commercial space.
Ideally, Gardner said they will be four viable black-owned businesses. Community and business input is welcome on criteria for determining what the best businesses will be for those spaces.
Seven artists have been selected to create work for the building. The community will also have the opportunity to provide feedback on the artwork.
“Everything that we know in our culture is going to be reflected in this building. It’s going to be very, very powerful,” Gardner said.
Another project moving toward construction is the remodel of the interior of the Y K Building at 110 14th Ave. Shawn Abdul with Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington said the work will transform the building into 34 single-resident units for working 18 to 25 year olds.
Right now Abdul said the project needs contractors — a general contractor and subcontractors — for work beginning in February and ending in June.
Garrett said Africatown is proposing that old Fire Station 6 at 23rd and Yesler be repurposed as an “innovation hub” instead of housing meter maid vehicles. The current visualization for the building includes room for business, enterprise and education support, technology facilities and maker space, as well as about 20 housing units focused on young adults. Right now a feasibility study is in the works to see if the concept is financially viable and sustainable.
The final and least progressed project discussed Monday evening was Midtown Center where Lennar Multifamily Communities is planning to create a 405-unit, mixed-use project with nearly 500 parking spots.
“We’re striving to acquire that property to be developed in a way that includes our (community),” Garrett said.
Africatown is planning to host additional meetings and provide regular updates on projects. The next meeting, expected to be more of a workshop-style event, is scheduled for November 7th.